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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3830

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) - I move:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for the establishment of a Schools Commission to advise the Commonwealth Government on. all forms of assistance necessary to' bring all primary and secondary schools to acceptable standards'.

I am not going to detain the House at any great length on this measure or on the amendment that I have just moved. I have colleagues who want to speak in greater detail about the legislation before us. But I do want to use this amendment as a vehicle to protest against the Government's policy of skim and dabble in education. It skims over the surface of the deep needs of education below the tertiary level and it dabbles here and there. Usually some new snipper of policy is adopted just before an election. So we got the science blocks scheme just before an election.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Hardly fair.

Mr BEAZLEY - It is an historic fact. So also did we get assistance for secondary school libraries, lt is quite important that over the next triennium $30m is to be provided for secondary school libraries. But the needs in primary and secondary education are immense. Anybody who looks at television programmes - just to discuss as an aside the private sector of education - will have heard the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Guilford Young, say that 20 of his schools are bankrupt and they will have to be closed, producing a crisis in primary and secondary education in the State of Tasmania. We have had a statement from the Victorian State school teachers organisation saying that as a minimum $130m is needed in capital construction for the education of children in the City of Melbourne alone. There is a very deep-seated crisis in education. We are going to have to change many of our concepts. It is extremely doubtful that all the teachers who will be employed in the future - if class sizes are to be reduced as they should be - will be fully qualified teachers professionally. We will have to move to the idea which appears to be developing in the more, advanced States educationally in the United States of teaching teams, where, there are teachers .with specialist skills who can assist teachers without themselves being fully qualified to teach across the whole range.

The Opposition is dissatisfied with the way the Commonwealth moves into the ordinary fields of education. There is a tremendous wastage of skilled population at the secondary school level because of the large numbers of children who have to leave school, and there is a poultice on that - the secondary school scholarshipswhich does not really meet the needs of the children. The Catholic schools' in particular are in very great financial need, so there is a flat rate grant where the most affluent get the same per capita grant as the most indigent of the schools. The whole system has grown like Topsy. The Commonwealth has found that if it is to do anything intelligent for the universities, if it is to do anything intelligent for the colleges of advanced education, it must have a special organ of sight to see the needs. So it has set up the Australian Universities Commission and the Commission for Colleges of Advanced Education. We say that it is also vitally important that the Commonwealth should set up a schools commission to perceive the needs that there are in the ordinary schools of the country.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But they are administered by State departments. The universities are not.

Mr BEAZLEY - The Commonwealth and the States are separate and colliding sovereignties. Whether we like it or not, what the founding fathers produced and what judicial interpretation.' especially in the uniform tax case, has subsequently developed, is that the States control the expenditure departments and the Commonwealth controls the revenue department. There is no sector of education which will advance in the absence of Commonwealth financial grants. You may just as well comment upon the English structure of education where education is under the administration of local government authorities but wholly dependent upon the grants of the national Government. 1 am not saying that the Commonwealth should take over the administration of education. It has not taken over the administration of the universities. It has not taken over the administration of colleges of advanced education. In setting up a schools commission to advise the Commonwealth what it might do to assist both the Government and the non-Government sector of education it would not take over the administration of either of those sectors.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be duplicating State departments.

Mr BEAZLEY - But are you not duplicating State departments now? You are duplicating State departments in this matter:

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is only the universities.

Mr BEAZLEY - No, we are not talking about universities. We are talking about this Bill before us now which relates to secondary school libraries. Those which are not church schools are under the administration of the States. Libraries and science blocks in State secondary schools are under the administration of the States but this Government has seen fit to assist them. Instead, of coming in with a strategy of skim and dabble we want the Government to set up. a schools commission which will really investigate the needs, right across the board, and assist. I believe that there is another tertiary field in which this Government should assist to a. greater degree than it has done. It has already started to do so with teachers colleges and with the training of teachers. This is within the administration of the States but the Commonwealth has entered this field to assist. There is no difference in principle in what we are proposing, which is a schools commission perpetually to examine the needs and to make recommendations to the Commonwealth Government.

One thing that we know for sure, Mr Minister, is that you can look back and see the Hansard record sparkling with statements that emanated from the days when the Liberal Party of Australia had its first fine careless rapture. In that first fine careless rapture the Prime Minister of the day said persistently that the Commonwealth had no responsibility for education, until he was inched into Universities Commission, until he was inched into science blocks, until he was inched into school libraries, until he was inched into all sorts of things and what the Government denied it subsequently affirmed. I would prefer the days since the first fine careless rapture as far as education is concerned because the days of first fine careless rapture were rather arid in the field of education. I am bound to say that the successors of those first Ministers have done more for education, very much more for education, than their predecessors of earlier times. Our only complaint is that persistently there is this disclaimer - the same disclaimer as the Minister has made tonight - that it is a Commonwealth responsibility. Then, another generation of schoolchildren goes through crippled education and, finally, the Commonwealth gets around to a new adjustment 7 or 8 years after- it denied that it needed to do it. I think politically the instinct is superb. I do not begrudge the Government its electoral successes at all.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Of course you do.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There are far too many interjections coming from Ministers at the table. They can have an opportunity to speak later if they wish.

Mr BEAZLEY - I think the instinct of extracting the maximum electoral success from the minimum of contribution is greatly to bc admired- in .the same sense as one admires Machiavelli. But when one is discussing the educational needs, something other than skimming superficially over the problem and dabbling here and there is necessary. This, is why the Labor Party wants a schools commission as an organ of sight so that the Commonwealth will not have the excuse of not knowing what is needed. Of course, 1 realise that there is a great -peril in this. The mere fact of finding out what is needed is a moral commitment to do - something about it, but the position of education in Australia today is so serious that we feel it is essential that the Commonwealth Government should make the moral commitment to do something about it and this is why we support the idea of a schools commission..

Mr SPEAKER -Is the amendment seconded?

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